The late 1980s into the early 1990s ushered in a new sound that has made its mark in musical history: “New Jack Swing.” That era wouldn’t be complete without mentioning one of super producer Teddy Riley’s first groups, the New Jersey quartet known as Today. The group had chart-topping hits such as “Why You Getting Funky on Me,” “Him or Me,” and “Girl I Got My Eyes On You,” to name a few. The front man of the group was none other than Big Bub.
Big Bub is not only a crooner that pulls his soulfulness from his gospel roots, but he is also a multi-platinum songwriter, producer and astute businessman. After a brief hiatus, he’s back in the studio working on new projects to be released later this year.
Soultrain.com caught up with Big Bub in between studio sessions to discuss his new music and his advice to up and coming artists.
Soul Train: What happened to the group Today?
Big Bub: Motown didn’t want to push Today anymore, and they were asking me to join Boyz II Men, and they were originally a 5 member group. I had loyalty to my boys, and plus they are from Philly–nothing against Philly–but I’m from Jersey and I can’t be on a song singing Motown Philly (laughs); it just didn’t match or look good. But, the executives were putting all of their money on that group and I just couldn’t see myself doing that to my group mates in Today. I decided to go solo.
Big Bub: No, I don’t. I think Boyz II Men are very talented and I have a great relationship with them. It was a business move and I understood that. I had to stay loyal to my boys. If you’re not going to push us as a group, then I might as well do the solo thing.
Soul Train: So after you left to pursue the solo route, you returned to Motown in a different capacity. Why is that? How did that happen?
Big Bub: I became an executive. When you are a hit maker writing hits that’s what happens (laughs). Seriously, good work ethic, and I work well with artists, you know with me being an artist. I’m passionate about other artists. I was going to sell an album–the Timeless album that came out later on–but Andre Harrell was like, “No, listen, I need you to work at Motown”. I never forget that he wrote on this notepad these figures, and I said man let’s get it! (laughs) I worked there from 1995-1999.
Soul Train: Will Today ever reunite and give us more great music?
Big Bub: We are actually working on a gospel album, so stay tuned for that.
Soul Train: What made you go from R&B to gospel? Now you’re back in the R&B realm of things, so how did that transition work?
Big Bub: I always had to do a gospel album. It’s just like with any artist that comes from that gospel family, it’s always going to be a part of you. Just like any other artist wants to do a country or pop album, I just always wanted to do a gospel album. I always like to explore, so I did a remake of “Sailing” by Christopher Cross.
Soul Train: Now you are also in the studio working with Raekwon. What is this project that you are working on and when it will be released?
Big Bub: We are working on a mix tape together and it will be released this summer.
Soul Train: How did you get into songwriting?
Big Bub: I wrote the majority of the first album for Today, and Teddy Riley produced it. Songwriting has just always been in me. I always had that vision; and I never use pen and paper. It’s a gift. If I hear the music then I can go and flow.
Soul Train: If you had to choose, which do you prefer doing: Singing, songwriting, producing, or being an executive?
Big Bub: All of them! I love the studio. I’m a studio junkie. I would wear the same thing over and over every day and buy stuff to change in to because I don’t like to lose my vibe when I’m in the studio. I mean being around Teddy Riley seeing how he built a machine, I love it. I can’t stand now when I’m working with artists and they want to shut down the studio. When I was recording with Teddy Riley, we had the microphone hanging over the shower rod in the projects on 129th Street in New York. That’s where a lot of hot albums came from in Harlem. That’s where Keith Sweat’s first album comes from, Al B. Sure!’s album, the Guy album, Today’s album. Eventually we moved to a bigger studio to do some touching up and recording there, but those hits came from the projects in Harlem.
Soul Train: What have you been doing since you released your last solo album?
Big Bub: Over the years I have been writing for different artists–Blackstreet, Mary J. Blige, Fine Young Cannibals, Boy George, the Jacksons, Johnny Gill, Luther Vandross, Busta Rhymes, Redhead Kingpin, and Tom Jones, the list goes on and on. Wow, I’ve worked with a lot of people when I sit down and think about it (laughs)! I have worked with a lot of producers like Diddy, Heavy D, Kwamé, Musiq SoulChild, and Raekwon to name a few.
Soul Train: What is your favorite song that you have written for another artist?
Big Bub: There are so many. Good question. My favorite would have to be the records on Mary J. Blige’s My Life album. Women were really going through some stuff and could relate to that album. I think that being around Mary and getting to know each other, those records really uplifted some sisters at that time, and it was needed. That is Mary’s biggest album to this day.
Soul Train: What about your favorite Big Bub song?
Big Bub: I love “Telling Me Stories.” It’s all about healing people that are on drugs. I like “Settle Down,” “24/7 of Good Loving.” There are a lot of good records.
Soul Train: How about your favorite Today song?
Big Bub: “Why You Getting Funky on Me,” “Him or Me,” “Girl I Got My Eyes on You.” I’ll never forget five months out of high school being at Madison Square Gardens sold out, me and my boys. It was amazing going from a have-not to a have-got. It’s kind of scary.
Soul Train: Since you’re working on a new album, how do you think it will fare in today’s music industry?
Big Bub: It’s different now; it’s a different time and sound. I’m sticking with my sound because that’s what my fan base wants. I’m sticking with my guns and of course you are going to have newcomers checking you out. This generation now is really crying out for good music.
Soul Train: What is missing from R&B music today?
Big Bub: Me! (laughs)
Soul Train: Well, hurry up and release that new music!
Soul Train: What is your favorite Soul Train memory?
Big Bub: The first time we stepped up in Soul Train, we were like, wow this joint is small!
They have been fooling us for years! (laughs) Soul Train wasn’t what I expected, it was small, but their camera game was crazy. Once I saw Don Cornelius, then it hit us that we were really on Soul Train. Don came in and introduced himself to us in the green room; he told us that he loved our music.
Soul Train: What is your advice for aspiring artists?
Big Bub: Make sure you handle your business, master your craft. I don’t care how talented you are, opportunity is the key. If you want to be a celebrity, look like one, you can’t be walking around looking like you aren’t about anything and calling yourself an artist. There are no hand outs in this business, that’s why I only deal with artists that are ready to listen. Just make sure you do your homework and master your craft.
Soul Train: What would you say is the key to your staying power?
Big Bub: God. I have a passion for what I do. I was born to do this. If you have a passion for something then that’s the key to your staying power. Once a hit maker, always a hit maker, that’s how I look at it.
Follow Big Bub on Twitter @Bigbubtoday.
Shameika Rene’ is a journalist of all trades. She can usually be found producing television news and writing for various websites such as Charlotte Vibe, Creative Loafing, or her own site, www.themofochronicles.com. Follow her on Twitter @mofochronicles.